#BikeSkiHealth, a Report of Sorts

Kocsis Márti and I had the distinct pleasure to host participants from Poli and from Overhalla, Norway on the Erasmus+ sponsored Youth Exchange entitled #BikeSkiHealth from October 7 to 15, 2018. A nice project idea where we cycle on various sections of the Euro Velo 6 (a cycle route from the Atlantic Ocean in France to the Black Sea in Romania) in and around Budapest. Showing participants that there are options to a healthy lifestyle in an urban environment. As well as less urban areas very close to the capitol city.

What can we say, it was a truly education experience; eye-opening to say the least. As the title of the project suggests cycling was involved, skiing is on the books for the second leg, in Overhalla come February. Cycling with large groups of high school aged participants is nothing new to either of us. However, cycling with participants from small, rural communities is a whole new ballpark. We were kept on our toes at all times trying to figure out the safest routes around, through, across Budapest. From the outset we had intended to use bike paths, however, there are sections of road with no dedicated bike lane to follow. Our students are used to (more or less) using these stretches of road. We were soon to become aware of how different the situation is for our visiting partners. Rerouting, re-planning these short routes entailed quick rides here and there to check out various sections.

To make things even more tricky, the Turkish PM was on a state visit to Hungary the first day for cycling and you guessed right, large swaths of the city were off limits. Rerouting, re-planning !!! To be honest, we were very satisfied how well our Polis students handled this situation. They rerouted, re-planned like a champ. The entire time keeping the Treasure Hunt by Bike in teams of 6,  with Euro Velo 6 as the backbone of their routes – which, by the way, happens to pass right through, or very close to most famous sights in the city!

Euro Velo 6 to Szentendre and back!!! That was the second day on the bike. A nice easy ride along flat roads, well, flat except for the bumpy bits, tree roots, broken asphalt, dirt roads – amazing considering it is the main international cycle touring route through Hungary. Wonder why it is not better kept and the signage is so abysmal. But, this is neither here, nor there. The ride out and back was actually a lot of fun. We stuck to our guns and set it up like a typical Nagy Durranás (a totally Poli, totally gopnicked event that involves lots of bikes, kids, teachers),  ie. a small group of youth and a leader/teacher in front or bringing up the rear, depending on the stretch being ridden. This worked out for the most part.

Euro Velo 6 from Szob to Budapest!!! Day three on the bikes was more difficult. Again, flat ride, great weather, but some participants were on sub-par rental bikes making the ride harder for them, as well as not being used to such a high tempo. So, we had to slow things down. It took us until Nagymaros to fully grasp what our Norwegian partners wanted and from there to Vác we all road together, the smaller groups, one after the other. Looked like a stretched out peleton on the TDF, 34 racers long! At Vác several decided it was too much and took advantage our careful route planning as we specifically chose to ride near train lines.  The rest fo the group were troopers and head home for the last 35 km.

As with all Youth Exchanges, cultural nights and final events were aplenty. The Hungarian culture night included a presentation by world famous folk musician Szokolay Dongó followed by paprikáskrumpli, presentations on Hungary and song and dance. Norwegian night consisted of similar activities, minus Dongó and salmon, reindeer heart, elk sausage and flat breads, good times and good foods for all to enjoy. The final event saw each team presenting what they learned about Budapest and the environs on the scavenger hunt and bikes trips and walks around town and the outlying areas. Then pizza time with homemade pizza provided by class RobinHood from Poli and to round out the evening dancing until closing time at 10 pm.

This Erasmus+ project was a success because the youth learned quite a bit about each other, each other’s culture and about themselves. We can hardly wait for the Part Two: Winter in Overhalla.

On behalf of Márti, I would like to thank all the leaders and participants, Rob


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